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tv   Hearing Focuses on Immigration and Gang Membership  CSPAN  July 10, 2017 12:56pm-2:51pm EDT

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infrastructure right because as we roll forward, we need to build 300,000 small cell sites in the next few years. and what a small cell looks like is maybe a pizza box. it's small and it's going to be attached to everything, because these are going to be much more dense networks. they're going to be on traffic lights and streetlights, the sides of buildings, and so what we really need and this is really porn, we need an infrastructure that rethinks how we site. >> watch it tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span 2. next, a hearing on the international gang ms-13. members of the senate judiciary committee heard from federal law enforcement about the gang's activity and tactics for recruiting unoccupied immigrant children. the hearing ran just under two hours.
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good morning everybody. normally we don't start until the ranking members here but people have scheduling problems today, and i've consulted with the staff and i can go ahead without waiting. thank you, senator cornyn, for being here. senator kennedy's coming. the topic of today's hearing involves the ms-13 crisis that's growing and spreading in communities across the nation.
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the atrocities of these criminals are not new. the group has existed since the 1980s and has made a reputation for itself as a perpetrator of extreme and often gruesome violence. this organization has been dubbed the world's most dangerous gang. and some say, it would be a terrorist organization. but, you wouldn't expect anything less from a group whose model happens to be "kill, rape and control." unfortunately, over the past two years, this terrifying model has been become a vicious reality for many communities across our country. so far this year, the gang has been publicly linked to dozens of high-profile killings, rapes and assaults across the country,
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from washington, d.c., metro area, to houston, texas, and name a lot of other communities as welt. -- well. undoubtedly, there are many, many more that simply haven't been reported. let me give the committee just a few examples of this group's absolute brutality and inhumanity. ms-13 has been responsible for nearly 20 murders on long island just since 2010. with victims including high school-aged children, as young as 16. the group is also considered responsible for an additional 32 violent acts, including eight attempted murders. in january, two gang members, both of whom are unauthorized immigrants, lured a 22-year-old man from new jersey to maryland
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with the promise of sex, where he butchered that person and left him in the woods near gaithersburg, maryland, to rot. in march, two ms-13 members were charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting three teenage girls for several weeks and eventually murdering one of them in what has been described as a satanic ritual. in march and april, a string of ms-13 murders occurred across southern virginia with perhaps the most graphic being the murder of 17-year-old raymond wood. woods body was found face down in the woods and the mchl s-13 suspects had cut his hands and throat before stabbing him 16 times. now, while these examples are horrifying, they're far from
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isolated, according to the department of justice. ms-13 regularly conducts gang activities in at least 40 states, the district of columbia and their violence touches nearly every major community in america. what's even more troubling than the reason surch of m -- surge of ms-13 gang violence is the fact that the organization has a new and more disturbing recruitment strategy. targeting unaccompanied alien children. let me tell you the story of one such child who was targeted by ms-13 and ultimately lost his life to their violence. as "the washington post" reported friday afternoon, danny santinia miranda was just 16 years old when he was apprehended at the border. he traveled to the united states
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without his parents and like other minors, he was sent by the federal government to live with a sponsor, in this case an uncle. daniel was enrolled in a local school where he was, according to reports, sucked into tensions between ms-13 and rival gangs. this led ms-13 gang leaders in el salvador to order danny's assassination. and he was shot to death at school bus stop one morning. danny's tragic story is all too common example of ms-13's ruthless targeting of children. it is well known that ms-13 actively targets and recruits children as young as 8 years old. unaccompanied minors are particularly prime candidates for gang recruitment. their illegal status and central american heritage alone make
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them vulnerable targets for ms-13 recruitment. while their illegal status and central american heritage are key factors in the targeting, without a doubt, the failure of the current system for handling these children is also the blame. the current system is fraught with abuse, with systematic errors and lack of effective cooperation. today we will hear from agencies who share responsibility for allowing these children to fall through the cracks and back a target for ms-13 recruitment. to help us get to the bottom of the crisis, we have asked representatives at the table, the justice department, health and human services, and the department of homeland security to appear today and to give us their point of view and answer our questions.
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independent reports have found that the customs and border patrol has allowed many ms-13 gang members to enter the united states according to the whistle blower documents obtained by chairman johnson. the obama administration knowingly released at least 16 known ms-13 members into communities after their apprehension. many of these members were unaccompanied children. once an unaccompanied children are apprehended, the office of refugee settlement is supposed to find these children an appropriate sponsor. often these sponsors themselves are in the country illegally and many of them have criminal backgrounds. because of the lack of post-release oversight many children have been placed in dangerous situations including illegal working environments and in some cases even prostitution rings. this precarious combination of
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events, trafficking to and appe apprehension at the united states border and placement with inappropriate sponsors makes unaccompanied children vulnerable to gang recruitment. with promises of a cultural community and an escape from often harrowing and isolating living conditions at home, ms-13 has become an alternative option for too many young people. in spite of affirm evidence that unaccompanied children are a prime target for ms-13 recruitments, none of the government agencies here today have any statistics about how many of the more than 10,000 gang members in the united states entered and were recruited as unaccompanied children. the end result of the government's total failure to establish an efficient process and meaningful oversight of the placement of these children has
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led to the current ms-13 crisis. today's hearing is the first step in plotting a path forward. throughout the course of this hearing, we're going to explore our customs and border patrol and the office of refugee resettlement can better cooperation to ensure the safe and proper placement of unaccompanied children and to decimate ms-13's recruitment incentive. we're also going to hear what steps immigration, custom enforcement and the department of justice are taking to eliminate this organization on the back end. at the end of this hearing, i fully expect the government witnesses to have given this committee a better understanding of what needs to be and must be done to end this threat. too many innocent americans and immigrant lives are at stake. thank you. senator franken, it's now your -- say whatever you want to say. >> well, before i begin, i'd
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like to thank you, mr. chairman, for calling this hearing and for focusing attention on an issue that has significant implications for public safety. gang violence, particularly violence perpetrated by ms-13 and its rival, the 18th street gang, threatens the safety and security of our communities, most especially our immigrant communities. after police in los angeles arrested close to two dozen ms-13 gang members last month, lapd chief charlie beck explained that gangs like ms-13 prey on immigrants, in particular on undocumented immigrants. he said, quote, they extort them, they rob them, they rape them, they murder them. but chief beck also made clear that, quote, without immigrants'
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cooperation as witnesses, none of these arrests would be possible. now, chief beck knows, and i expect that ms-13 knows as well that members of our immigrant communities are far less likely to seek help from law enforcement if they know that the police officer who responds to that call is going to check their papers. so i think it's quite clear that fighting ms-13 doesn't just demand the coordinated effort on the part of state and local law enforcement. fighting ms-13 requires that law enforcement officials have the trust and respect of the communities targeted. i hope that today's witnesses are able to speak to how we are working to maintain that trust and respect, notwithstanding the anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that we've seen emerge from the trump campaign, and sadly the trump administration.
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i also think it's important to acknowledge that some members of our immigrant communities came to this country to escape the violence and conflict that ms-13 and other gangs inflicted upon them in their home countries. sadly for central american immigrants, particularly those from the northern triangle countries of el salvador, guatemala and honduras, the violence, extortion and forced recruitment that are ms-13's stock in trade are all too familiar. recent studies have demonstrated that fear of gang violence, particularly sexual and gender-based violence targeting children, is a significant factor in some families' decisions to leave their home country in search of safety and security here in america. so i hope today's witnesses are able to help us understand how
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ms-13's activities in central america force children and families to make the long journey here. i also hope today's witnesses can help us understand how addressing the root causes of this violence in central america fits into the federal government's efforts to fight ms-13 here at home. thank you, mr. chairman, and again, i appreciate your holding this hearing. >> thank you. for the benefit of the committee as well as the witnesses, i'm going to have one of my colleagues chair from 11:00 to 11:25 so i can go and ask some questions on trade at the finance committee down the hall. i should be back. we all have to remember that the two-hour rule, i think, will be in place. well, no, i guess -- i guess we'll be done by the time the two-hour rule goes into effect. i'm going to introduce the panel and then i'll ask you to -- i'd
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like to swear you after that and then i'll take your testimony. carl -- carla provost, acting chief of the u.s. border patrol. miss provost has a long and distinguished career in law enforcement. she began with the riley county police department, manhattan, kansas, joined the border patrol, 1997. she has held numerous leadership positions, including supervisory border patrol agent. in 1997, border patrol agent in charge, in 2009 deputy chief patrol agent, 2011, chief patrol agent in 2013 and deputy assistant commissioner of the office of professional responsibility, 2015. scott lloyd, who's director of the office of refugee settlement. mr. lloyd earned his j.d. from
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catholic university. prior, mr. lloyd served as chief counsel, public policy office, knights of columbus, where he helped shape the organization's humanitarian response and led its policy advocacy of ethnic and religious minority victims of isis. mr. lloyd has served in the public sphere on government reform subcommittee of criminal justice drug policy and human resources and at the department of health and human services. derrick banner is the acting executive associate director for homeland security investigation. mr. banner began his career in law enforcement in the u.s. customs service where he served as customs inspector, a marine enforcement officer, a special agent and a manager of the maritime smuggling task force. prior to his current position, mr. banner served as special
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agent for homeland security investigations where he led multi-agency task forces in targeting cross-border criminal activity in the california/mexican border area. mr. elvince is associate executive director of enforcement and removal operations. in this role he leads ero in its mission to identify and remove individuals who present a danger to national security and public safety. he has over 23 years of federal law enforcement experience and has held numerous leadership positions, such as deputy assistant director for investigations, associate special agent in charge and deputy special agent in charge with the former u.s. immigration and naturalization service.
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mr. albence has also served as unit chief for i.c.e. office of investigation training academy. kenneth blankel has everyoned a j.d. at georgetown law center where he currently teaches as an adjunct professor. he blankel began his career in the miami-dade state's attorney office. he joined the southern district of florida u.s. attorney's office in '98. mr. blanco has held numerous leadership positions including deputy chief of narcotics, chief of high intensity drug trafficking area, acting chief of narcotics and deputy chief of major crimes section. in 2008 mr. blanco served as a
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deputy assistant attorney general. would you please stand. do you affirm that the testimony you are about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? [ response ] each has affirmed. thank you very much. >> mr. chairman, may i ask a quick housekeeping question. you alluded to the two-hour rule. >> yeah, but i think we're starting at noon, aren't we? >> does that -- are you -- is there an objection to committees meeting during today's session of the senate? >> only rumors. >> okay. >> only rumors. >> and that's associated with the protest of some of our colleagues over the health care issue? >> yes. as far as i know. it was yesterday at least. >> mr. chair, if i may just -- if i may on that, for those in the audience who wouldn't know what that is, it is some
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thinking that something as important as this should not go as long as it needs to and arbitrarily cutting it off at noon today. this is a critically important meeting that if every member were here right now, we couldn't finish by noon. so for somebody at the end of the dais, i hope they don't show up so that i do have my opportunity to ask my questions. this is a critically important subject and we should not be suggest off debate and discussion for arbitrary reasons related to things that have nothing to do with this pressing problem. >> senator tillis, under the early bird rule, you're protected. okay. miss provost, by the way, each of you will have probably a longer statement than the five minutes you've been allocated. that longer statement will be automatically put in the record. i don't cut people off right at the five minutes, but when the red light goes on, i'd appreciate it if you would try to summarize as quickly as you could. proceed, miss provost. >> thank you. chairman grassley, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to
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appear today to discuss the role of u.s. customs and border protection in protecting the homeland and securing our nation's borders. thanks to the support an leadership of the president, congress, our secretary and acting commissioner, as well as the hard work of the men and women of cbp, we are making significant progress towards securing our borders against the threats posed by transnational criminal organizations, such as ms-13. since taking office, the president has issued executive orders intended to secure our borders and enforce immigration laws, especially as they relate to tcos. implementation of policies issued by the secretary and the significant investments we have made in border enforcement personnel, technology and infrastructure have led to historic decline in illegal crossings along the southwest border. one of the greatest challenges we continue to face along the southwest border, however, are tcos, such as the international
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criminal organization, ms-13. when the u.s. border patrol encounters known gang members or aliens who admit to gang affiliation, biographic information is collected and recorded in the border patrol electronic system of record. biometric information is collected for all aliens over the age of 14. the electronic system collects fingerprint information and runs record checks on detainees, helping identify criminals an ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. among those we encounter, unaccompanied alien children with suspected tco affiliations, such as ms-13, present unique challenges. all uacs are processed in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, court orders and policies. pursuant to the trafficking victims protection reauthorization act of 2008, once a child is determined to meet the definition of a uac, cbp is required to transfer the
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uac into the care and custody of health and human services within 72 hours, except in unusual circumstances. if a uac is suspected of being a member of or affiliated with a gang, the information is recorded and conveyed to an i.c.e. field office juvenile coordinator and hhs office of refugee and resettlement. when a placement request is generated. secure placement is requested for any uac who has a known gang affiliation. we also screen uacs for human trafficking indicators, including trafficking by gangs such as ms-13. of the more than 250,000 uacs appear pren apprehended since 2012, 160 are suspected of having gang afgsz. the department's unity of effort initiative including the joint task forces has strengthened management processes to enable
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operations to address tcos. the jfts are currently executing more than 40 integrated operations against tcos and illicit networks by arresting convicted felons, sex offenders and seizing weapons and narcotics. with the support of congress, cbp will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, leverage their capabilities and continue to target individuals and organizations, including ms-13, whose criminal conduct undermines communities, the integrity of the immigration system and overall border security. we will take all appropriate steps to implement the provisions of the president's executive orders, which support the department's efforts to disrupt and dismantle tcos that are fortifying their illicit networks in the border region and beyond. distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important issue. in closing, i would like to take a moment to mention that although illegal immigration is
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trending downward, assaults against border patrol agents are on the rise. in fact, border patrol agents are among the most assaulted federal law enforcement personnel in the country. as of june 1st of this year, border patrol agents were assaulted more than 550 times compared to fewer than 300 times during the same reporting period last year. despite the challenges of the job, the men and women of cbp work tirelessly to protect our borders and the american people. i sincerely thank the men and women of the united states border patrol for their hard work and dedication to duty every day to selflessly ensure our nation's security. i am proud to serve alongside them with honor first. i look forward to your questions. thank you.
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unaccompanied alien children program. since joining in march one of my top priorities i want r&r and our partners today what have we can in providing care for the children. i also want to bring our partners together to tackle the safety and concerns from children after being released from custody. this year we have begun working the area of community safety which is one of the administration's top priorities. i already have an eye on this issue within my fist month was
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confronted with reports of alleged violence against former uac, which serves to confirm may we know already. homeland security and juvenile justice are not orr's area of expertise we cannot fulfill or mission. the goal of this initiative is to equipment uac to with the tools they need to stay safe from gangs like ms-13 and violence. we have expanded our interagency work with the department of homeland security and the department of justice. our interaction partners have the expertise to share best practices and help us improve our guidance. trainings for our staff and grantees. local dhs staff, our training all our post-release services providers and who will notify, and who to notify if they become aware of ms-13 and other gang activity.
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we are working to enhance our day-to-day consultations with dhs. 24 hours before we release someone from custody we notify the uac and we ask for dhs input regarding the safety of the release for the uac and for their community. we notify dhs again 24 hours after the minor's released. we're also reviewing the ways we communicate with dhs to strengthen our decision making on releases of uac at higher risk of violence or criminal activity. when we release uac from our care we alert sponsors to the potential danger of gang recruitment activity so they're prepared to help the uac avoid it. the community safe initiative will continue to be a top priority for us. in the coming years we hope to enhance our screen tools.
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to further or partnerships with entities and to put into place gang prevention educational programs in our facilities. in addition to our activities in the community safety initiatives we are assessing our policy through the lens of the safety of the american communities and individual uac. our revised policy include clarification on which youth need placement in one of our security facilities as oppose to one of our staff securities. the policies now address the situation of uac who self-report ms-13 or other gang involvement. in addition senior o.r.r. leadership now views all releases from secure and staff secure facilities. another important step in the safety of release is to improve the assessment of sponsors. prior to my arrival the action
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has made a number of improvements if this area. for example the decrease of db is documents or limit the type of documents orr accepts the -- the household members or any adults listed in a sponsor care plan. the -- also clarify how we -- and the sponsor-child relationship. these changes help protect to children from trafficking smugglers and others who wish to do them harm. if o.r.r. discovers using fraudulent documents, we report to the hhs inspector general and customs enforcement office of homeland security investigations. in the area of home studies, orr increased discretionary home studies and post release services. we now require home studies for uac 12 years of age or younger being released to non-relatives
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and sponsors. contact the child and the sponsor shortly after release which is a critical adjustment period. to accomplish this orr safety well-being to call 30 days after release. if the case manager has a concern about the child's safety and well being they must report it to agencies. to remove children from unsafe situations, orr report concerns to follow up. in closing i want to thank you for the opportunity to update you on our services and look forward to working with you on our community safety initiative, our continuing improvement of policy procedures and all facets of uac program. i'll be happy to appearance any questions. >> thank you mr. benner. >> chairman grassley and members thank you for opportunity to appear behalf you today to discuss the -- of the front lone
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home investigations. in their efforts to investigate, disrupt and dismantle gang activity in the united states. my oral statement will focus on gang violence specifically ms-13 gangs in the united states and abroad. as we know ms-13 is a trans national criminal organization that includes members in the united states and el salvador. where gang leadership direct and control cells, often referred to as clicks year in the united states. ms-13 perpetuates numerous violations within hsi's purview. and through our investigations we have researched and investigated ms-13 communication and financial networks. in determining that its primary source of income is generated through extortion and
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prostitution. they also generate money through drugs, weapons and human trafficking. in response to the gang epidemic, hs i initiated operation community shield which provide our criminal statutory criminal enforcement authorities, and partnership with state with local and foreign law enforcement agencies to combat the growth of gangs throughout the united states. through this platform hsi operations. since its inception, hsi and its partner agencies have made over 57,000 criminal and administrative arrests of gang members, leaders and associates. including more than 7,000 ms-13 gang leaders and associates. at the same time that hsi pursues domestic criminal investigations we're also
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pushing out the border by capitalizing on our international partnership with foreign law enforcement officials and we accomplish this through the use of our transnational criminal investigative units in operation citadel to work with host country law enforcement to identify potential bad actors along the elicit path ways, and at the same time exploiting information with the goal of identifying unknown gang clicks here operating in the united states. hsi's most recent surge operation project of new dawn, which is the largest gang operation in the history of this agency resulted in 1,378 arrests. of those, almost 1,100 were gang members or associates. 903 were charged with criminal offenses and 192 were arrested administratively for immigration violations. the majority of the arrestees were affiliated with ms-13, the
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bloods and the crips. enforcement actions occurred around the country with the greatest opportunity taking place in houston, newark, atlanta with the new york area. this surge operation could not have been successful without the cooperation and participation of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners and the department of justice. as directed by the president's executive order, hsi will continue to devote and give resources to disrupting and dismantling these organizations. thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support of the men and women on the front lines in executing their law enforcement missions and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you mr. benner.
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now mr. albence. >> good morning. i greatly appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the responsibility of the office and enforcement and removal operations with the u.s. -- and enforcing and combatting gang activity. the 6,000 dedicated officers enforce immigration laws in a fair and effective manner by identifying, arresting and detaining and removing aliens who are illegally present in the united states or otherwise violate our immigration laws. the enforcement of these laws is critical to the safety of our country. despite the complexity and difficulty of this mission, the men and women execute their duties humanely and professionally and i'm pleased to have the pleasure of representing them here today. ero plays a critical role in the removal of gangs in the community illegally. as a enforcement dealing with title eight we are able to
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target other gang members. enabling these public safety threats to be removed from the communities they are victimizing and return to their home countries. ero is an invaluable partner to international, federal, states and local law enforcement actions. to illustrate, in fiscal year 2015, i.c.e. removed 2,000 members and gang associates and in 2017 we have removed 2,078 gang members. one such programs on international front is the security lines for fugitive enforcement are safe which provide a platform for rro to combat the issue of foreign criminals fleeing to the united states after committing violent
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crime it is their countries. operating under the oro as well as mexico, safety proven to be a vital bilateral vehicle. directly impacts the united states and its international partners. through these distributed by the s.a.f.e. program to ero future operations teams here in the united states, in fiscal year 2016, ero facilitated the arrest and removal of -- and habilitated to that this year and return these criminals to their home states to face justice for their crimes. ero has a role of addressing the issue of unaccompanied alien children. under the trafficking victims protection reauthorization act, uac of nationals of noncontiguous countries are placed in proceedings. as you are aware, the vast majority encountered on the southwest border come from
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honduras, el salvador and guatemala. for children determined to be uac, the pra requires them to be transferred to the hhs office of resettlement within 72 hours. in fy-'17 through june 3rd we have transferred 25,307 uac. in accordance with the tcpra, i.c.e. stores each uac removal is coordinated with the foreign government authorities creating an opportunity -- prior to departure, and ensuring that a
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government official and design were custody. thank you again for opportunity to testify before you today and for your continued support for the men and women of ero, i'd be happy to answer any questions you may have. >> now mr. plan koe. >> good morning members of the committee. it's a measure to be here this morning on behalf of the department of justice to discuss deputy's efforts to target dismantle and eliminate ms-13. reports members who are intended to intimidate rivals, brutalize communities and demand the gang influence and control. the department of justice is bringing its full commitment of law enforcement authorities to bear on this issue. the department's response take several forms, one, investigating and prosecuting u.s. ms-base and gang members. two targeting international gang members in their home countries as well as united states. and three, attacking border criminal activities such as smuggling to prevent dangers criminals from entering the
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united states in the first place. given this the department work collaboratively. let me first turn to our domestic work targeting ms-13. through task forces such as the federal bureau of investigations, the fbi, safe street and gang task forces, homeland security, hsi task forces such as operation shield, and those founded by the organized crime and drug enforcement task program, the department has dismantled criminal organizations across the united states including ms-13. the divisions organized crime and gang session, the united states attorney office, the hsi continue to work collaboratively. more than ever before.
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recent prosecutions in the northern district of georgia, the district of maryland, the district of new jersey, the department's commitment to bringing the justice to these communities and these acts of violence against ms-13 is obvious. in these districts prosecutors secured the convictions of 22, 16 and 14 ms members respectively. many received life sentences while others received sentences of decades in prison. just last month prosecutors in the eastern district of virginia secured the guilty plea of an ms-13 member who admitted his participation in a murder committed as part of a gang initiation. our work, however, does not stop at the border. the fbi, hsi and our organized crime and gang section lead investigations into foreign based ms-13 leaders responsible for violence here in the united states. for example, the fbi's trans national anti-gang tag units located in el salvador, guatemala and honduras supply
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internationally generated information to many domestic ms-13 investigations. indeed in a series of ms-13 cases prosecuted in the district of maryland between 2006 and 2010, the tag unit in el s salvador seized in maryland, which communicating with maryland based ms-13 members here in the united states. based on that review, the tag unit provided information to u.s. prosecutors to help identify defendants, locations and relevant information to their investigations. the department's in country presence in the northern triangle, not only generates intelligence useful in both domestic and foreign investigations, but it also allows departments to fight ms-13 at its source. for example, with state department funding, the criminal
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division's office of overseas assistance and training deploys five department of justice prosecutors to serve as resident legal advisors in el salvador, guatemala and honduras. where they have mentored foreign counterparts in successful operations targeting ms-13's financial assets and leadership structure. in the last month alone, law enforcement in el salvador aided by department of prosecutors made over 90 arrests of prosecutions of ms-13 and other gang members. we must stop those individuals who circumvent our border patrol walls to bring gang members into the united states. therefore the department to our human rights and prosecution section works with our interagency partners to facilitate investigations that target and attack smuggling
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networks that present national security threats. thank you very much, and i appreciate and i will take any of your questions. >> thank you. we will have five-minute rounds. i'm going to start with a separate question on the same subject for ms. provost, mr. lloyd and mr. benner and if he wants to join in, mr. albance. one of the greatest currents that i've had regarding the care and custody of unaccompanied minors is a fact that no one takes responsibility for these children after they're placed with a sponsor. your agencies repeatedly pass the buck to each other, as a result children are allowed to disappear. when these children disappear without any real supervision they're as a rule rational to join gangs like ms-13.
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some children are being abused and workshops under conditions. so ms. provost, do your agency -- or does your agency contend to maintain that it has no longer monitored or jurisdiction over unaccompanied minors once they're transferred to office of refugee -- refugee resettlement? >> thank you, senator. so mr. chairman the key function is i know you know for cvp we're the interdictors at the border, whether it's office field operations or border patrol agent. so our main focus on the immediate border and border security, once we appear helped unaccompanied children, or are -- so once we do identify someone as an unaccompanied
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child as i said, we try to expedite but definitely within 72 hours we do transfer them over to hhs. and at that point they become hhs's responsibility and our focus goes back to our immediate border security function. >> so you just said that at that point you don't have jurisdiction over them. now mr. benner and albence, do you continue to maintain you don't monitor or have jurisdiction over unaccompanied children until they on tape the finalized order of removal? >> yes, sir that's correct. under the tcpra the caring and custody of the uac falls under the responsible of hhs. once i.c.e. has made the transfer over to hhs we follow the case as it goes through the immigration course. if and when the final order is issued by a judge we effectuate that order.
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we don't have authority to do do anything with that custody. >> and mr. benner, if you want to add to that? >> thank you senator. i'd hsi's point of -- is the point it become involve in a criminal investigation that we're conducting. so several of these investigations can be long-term in nature investigating types of crime they're engaged in, typically trafficking, prosecution and narcotics, but we work very closely with state and hole partners when we do identify minors who may even be at risk of violence or recruiting to have the maximum outreach that we can at that point without jeopardizing the criminal investigation.
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>> mr. lloyd, do you continue to maintain, except for the 30 follow-up call after you place an unaccompanied minor with a sponsor, you don't have an obligation to monitor that person? >> that's the historical condition of o.r.r. but we're reviewing that closely. i wouldn't say it's entirely clear, at least regarding category two and three, sponsors that would be those worth placed with close relatives or unrelated adults. with respect to category one, i think there's a hard jurisdictional stop there where with the definition of unaccompanied alien, child is one where the parents are not available or missing. and so in that case, if we've handed off the child to the parents then we view that as the end of our jurisdiction and now it's in the hands of the parents if that relationship starts to break down, then it's state job protective services that would step in at that point.
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>> so, i think we've heard it, this is a period of time, a whole period of time when children are being monitored by no one, so, legitimately and rhetorically raise the questions that we have to deal with, what is we going to do about it. now mr. lloyd suggested that they're viewing something. who should be monitoring these children up to the finalization of their immigration hearing, that's something that either congress has to work on or because there should be this proper follow-up, senator franken. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. blanco, in my state of minutes former minneapolis chief
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tim dolan used to say victims are less likely to dial 911 if they know the police officer in response to that call is going to check their papers. and statistics bear this out. a 2013 study from the universe of illinois found that 44% of latinos report that they're less likely to call the police even when they are the victim of a crime because they believe that officers will use the interaction as an opportunity to check their immigration status. 45% say they're less likely to voluntary information about crimes they've witness. and this isn't even confined to immigrants. 28% of latinos born in the united states say they're less likely to call the police when they're the victim of a crime because they fear police will ask them about their status or the status of people they know. now, that study was conducted before the 2016 campaign, a campaign in which then candidate trump made scapegoating immigrants the essential pillar
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of his platform. i suspect if the same study were conducted today after the administration has repeatedly condemned cities with immigration enforcement, the study would find that even fewer latinos are willing to call police when they face danger. you've worked in law enforcement for a long time. you've been a u.s. attorney, and you've worked closely with other u.s. attorneys. do you agree in order to effectively fight ms-13, police need to have strong relationships with our immigrant communities? >> thank you, senator. yes, i've been in law enforcement for 28 years and seen a lot of things and worked with a lot of things, senator.
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i can tell you it is important for the law enforcement to have the respect and trust of the community and the community to have the trust and respect of law enforcement. but there are a whole host of reasons meme may not want to call police and much of it has to do with the fear they have of violent crime gangs, not so much of the police. but it's an interesting dilemma they have when they call the police and because they have to give their names and these victims are outed to the ms-13 and other gang members. and that to me is the fear they have of calling the police not really the other way around. they're really scared of these people. they're terrified of many of them live in these communities. so many of these people are ones ms-13 gangs are targeting and they're generally the immigrant community. that's really what they fear. at least that's what i've seen. >> this kind of confirms some testimony i've heard from thomas manger, who is police chief in montgomery county, maryland.
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he has some experience dealing with ms-13. here's how he described the gang's current tactics, quote, before they extorted illegitimate businesses such as the illegal liquor stores or brothels, we have begun to see extortions legitimate latino businesses. mr. blanco, to me the tactics that chief major describe show ms-13 acting its strategy in order to capitalize on growing distrust our immigrant communities have in law enforcement. the gang seems to be exploiting that anxiety. in your view, what can law enforcement do to counter that strategy? >> i think, senator, your suggestion of having that sort of unity with our law
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enforcement community and the immigrant community is going to be very important. many of these immigrants don't understand how our law enforcement works. and they equate our law enforcement with the countries they came from, which is very different. the integrity and the diligence of which they work is incredible. and i think that association with that immigrant community is going to be very, very important. one thing to note, though, senator, is they're not only going after illegitimate businesses, which is common amongst criminals. as you mentioned they're going after legitimate businesses, immigrant community individuals and they know one thing. because they know one thing, back home they have friends. and that is where the ms-13 structure emanates from. and that's a very powerful tool they have. >> my time is up. >> thank you for holding this important hearing. and thank you to each of you for your service to our country.
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and i personally believe you could use some help from the policymakers, that's members of congress, because frankly i think your hands are being tied in ways that make our communities more dangerous, not through any fault of your own but as a result of the wrong policies. for example, ms. provost, reputedly the most dangerous city or most dangerous country in the world back when i visited with senator cain recently comes under our southwestern border, under current law you can't hold that 16-year-old person, individual, more than 72 hours, correct? >> yes, that is correct. >> if that person had come from mexico, a contiguous country, the border patrol could turn that person back at the border, they could voluntarily return,
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is that right? >> yes, that's correct. >> so as a result of congressional policies you are then required to turn that individual, that 16-year-old over to health and human services and the work that mr. lloyd and his colleagues do. so, mr. lloyd, i know you just got on the job in march, and so please don't take my questions as being antagonistic or critical of your conduct or those who have come in with the new administration, but as the chairman pointed out, that 16-year-old would then be placed with a sponsor here in the united states and be told to return at some future date for a court hearing to determine whether they could stay in the united states, whether they would qualify as a refugee or for some other legal status, is that right? >> yes, that's correct. >> and under current law that sponsor need not be a family member and need not be a citizen. it could be an undocumented individual. >> yes.
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>> and you have no -- there's no legal requirement nor does your organization have the current ability to monitor the situation of that unaccompanied minor in the custody of that sponsor more than a few days after they're placed, is that right? >> 30 days after we do a check and call with the sponsor and the uac and that -- in some cases we do have post-release services, but that's in limited cases if there's mental health concerns or special concern about the child. and a lot of that has to do with limitations and resources. >> do you know how many unaccompanied immigrant children there are with sponsors in the united states today? >> some age out of that category, but there's about i'm going to guess about 200,000.
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>> 200,000 minor children in the custody of sponsors, and ms. provost, if you suspect this 16-year-old is a member of ms-13 or some other transnational criminal organization, do you have anything to do other than process them within 72 hours and turn them over to health and human resources? >> no, sir, but if we suspect they're of gang affiliation, we do make notification to hhs. >> mr. lloyd, i think the gap in our u.s. government's approach to these unaccompanied minors is pretty obvious. if you're placing them with sponsors that aren't even citizens, may not even be family members, you can't tell us how many of these children -- nobody can really tell us how many of these children are being trafficked, become recruited as gang members or anything of that
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nature, can you? >> right. the best we can do at this point, and we've been doing everything we can to tighten it up, but the best we can do is to scrutinize the sponsor who comes forward to sponsor the child. and also while the uac is in care to monitor any of their behavior to figure out whether they may be prone to criminal activity. >> and my last question is and of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors with sponsors here in the united states, each of them has been given a notice to appear at a immigration hearing sometime in the future. >> yes. >> but no one really knows how many of them will actually show up for that hearing and how many of them will simply melt into the great american landscape, is that correct? >> that's correct. our staff is looking at ways to address that, which could include an increase in
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monitoring, but there's some other ways that have been suggested that there are way to improve appearances at immigration proceedings. and once we have a better indication of that we'll share it with congress. but the situation you've described is correct. >> i'll come back and say you could use some help from policy makers in my view. >> we welcome any help. >> senator klobuchar. >> thank you, very much. i was at another hearing, so i appreciate it. i'd like to get some genre action from all of you. but you in broad terms with respect to the agencies with 200,000 plus kids of these unaccompanied alien children that could be recruited by gangs such as ms-13 as he pointed out, have been trafficked as well. what trends have you seen, what consequences are, and what do you think are the most effective
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measures we could take to prevent this from happening? i'll start with you ms. provost. >> as i stated earlier, and you weren't here, our numbers are very low when it comes to unaccompanied children that we identify at least at apprehension. the number is somewhere around 160 since 2012 that border patrol in particular has identified. that being said, of course policies -- the laws that we've been discussing and the support effort there, i think, in our continued work in conjunction with our partners is key to success here, and working with the northern triangle countries. >> and how do you share this data with state and local law enforcement? do you share that with them? >> we share the information with i.c.e., ero, we work with task
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forces, state and local. so information we have there of course we share with them as well as many federal task forces that we work in conjunction to relay the information related to gang activity and gang apprehensions that we have. >> and your number, how many did you say? >> since 2012 we have identified approximately 160 juvenile gang members that we have apprehended. >> but that larger number was for unaccompanied children. >> for unaccompanied children since 2012 we have apprehended approximately 250,000. >> that's the number. >> i apologize. >> no, no, no. i understand. mr. lloyd. >> senator, in response to gang involvement in response to some of the inquiries we've received we did a census of our staff secure populations on june 9th, and what we were able to find was out of 138 in that
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population, approximately 35 had identified gang affiliation. but my original question, i know i got off on this, what do you think the most effective thing to do to prevent this from happening since this is hearing? >> right now with respect to our program is to equip the hands who are in custody to have the tools they need when they leave custody to avoid gang activity and any sort of violence. and also if there's past criminal involvement, to give them steps to find a different path. >> okay. thank you. mr. benner. >> thank you. the two most critical things -- the most critical aspect for us is shutting down the illicit financial pathways. so we know ms-13 makes their money through extortion, primarily, and through other
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exploitation crimes. and our focus is to shutdown those illicit proceeds from being returned to el salvador where the command and control uses that money to operate the international and global gang organization. so we're doing this several ways in starting with working with treasury in 2012, ofak, they designated ms-13 as a transnational criminal organization. that helps us. that's a powerful tool -- >> but what could we do to help you more? i know that's a good development. >> so the second part is the pathways that exist within the countries from el salvador to the united states. and we need to shut those down. we need to put more resources in terms of intelligence analysts
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in our overseas office to work with the post-law enforcement and be able to share through our intelligence connection. >> okay. mr. blanco, you're nodding your head. >> thank you, senator. a couple of things. mr. benner is absolutely right. going after the financial structure is important. but the question is what can you do for us? i think we need to take the fight to them and making sure that fight over there is a tough fight. and they're willing partners. so that is one thing that you think you can help us with. the other the resources to identify the bad actors here and remove those bad actors from this country and send them back from where they came. i think that's another thing. >> last. >> real briefly. >> following up on your statement there, there has been
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a decrease of uacs entering the border and i think that can be attributed to the immigration that has been occurring of late. there was a pull factor from the fault being there was lax immigration enforcement policies. we feel that the more robust enforcement is preventing a deterrence. >> thank you. senator kennedy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you for your testimony. very interesting. i understand the legal definition of unaccompanied child, uac, but what ages are we talking about typically? are these older children or younger children or medium?
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>> from what we apprehend at the border the range is actually extremely wide from a large group of maybe 12 to 17 years old, but we have very young children as well. >> how does a young child get across the border illegally? >> so this is where we look at trafficking in or coming with other individuals of the family members. i think this comes to the point of certainly working with the northern triangle countries and the benefit it would bring because many of them arrive with -- >> are they alone or are they accompanied by an adult? they are often accompanied. they have other adults in the groups with them or other older children with them at times that are maybe teenage. >> what role do the so-called sanctuary cities play in this problem? anybody? i can't see your names here.
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>> i think one thing from the ero perspective and civil immigration enforcement, obviously those individuals are involved in criminal activity. the largest part is our criminal enrollment program where we go into jails and identify individuals. having access to those jails, having access to the information on those individuals that are in those jails allows us to take the proper -- >> let me interrupt you because i've only got five minutes. do sanctuary cities contribute to this problem substantially or not? >> they're certainly a factor. >> do you consider them to be a major factor? >> i think there's some major cities in this country where i can't send my officers to go into the jail to be interviewed, and we can't go in there and take law enforcement action against them, certainly that's a problem.
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>> even if the person arrested is a member of ms-13? >> correct. >> so i want to be sure i understand. these are evil people. very hard to miss them. there are tattoos all over their body, and i'm sure most local law enforcement officials have a good idea of who these folks are. if they're arrested and they're in a local jail, there are some cities in the united states that would prevent you from coming in and talking to them, interviewing them, saying hey, let's be sure they're a member of ms-13 and get them in jail? >> correct. in order to us to -- in many cases we know who these individuals are. they've been arrested by border patrol or been arrest by i.c.e. previously.
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we know who they are, we know they're gang members, we know they're criminals. but if the city doesn't allow us to get into the jail to process that individual for removal and take custody of that person, then they're released back into the communities to revictimize them. >> and these are known members, killed people and raped people, children? >> yes, sir. >> which cities? >> chicago is a large one. we haven't been able to get into cook county jail for quite a long time. and obviously there's significant crime problems in the city of chicago. >> what other cities? >> new york city. >> what other cities? >> there's a rather long list. there's some cities that don't give us full cooperation. >> which cities don't give you full cooperation? >> that's a very long list. i'd be happy to get back to you. >> name a couple of them. >> san francisco, we can't get into that county.
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>> new orleans? >> no, i think new orleans, we're able to get in. >> i just want to be sure because anybody on the panel disagrees with this, because i understand senator franken's point, if you're in the country illegally, you're less likely to report the crime. that's a valid point. and you're less likely to be with someone committing a crime. but we're talking about a member of ms-13, and for the most part everybody in law enforcement state and local knows they're a member of ms-13. and they know what ms-13 does, and they've been caught and they're in a local jail, and we have cities that refuse to let you come in and talk to them and prosecute them? >> that's correct. we're not asking the state and
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local agencies to do anything besides give us access and transfer the individual to our country so we can remove them from the country or prosecute them accordingly. >> wow. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. albence, i think i share senator kennedy's wow. i think i'll be following up too for clarification between county and city and state jails. senator tillis. >> i'm going to try to be quick. first off i just want d to reif force what senator cornin said. you just heard the comments,
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it's an absurd situation. and here's the sad part of what we're talking about there, if they're guilty of murder or rape, hopefully they'll be incarcerated. they're likely to get back into the community and the communities they're likely to be against are the communities in their own cities. they're victimizing their own population. this is a crisis in these communities of large majority of illegally present persons. it's also a very interesting number of statistics i try to glue together. senator franken, i think he said some 48% of the illegally present population was unlikely to report a crime if they themselves were illegally present. there are 200,000 i believe someone else say unaccompanied children who have been placed with sponsors. and if the staff briefing memo is correct, some 80% of are with people who are illegally present themselves. so if you do the math, 200,000,
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160,000, 48,000 of them are among people who are among people who are unlikely to report a crime because they themselves are illegally present. we've got a system right now where we put 80,000 children in homes where if ms-13 recruited them, they'd be unlikely to protect them from this criminal activity. y'all can't fix that. we've got to fix that. i want to go down the -- and by the way, i learned as a freshman last year this list is very helpful to give the names. sort of freshman hazing. >> i still can't see the names, which i think is probably an osha violation. >> well, these seats are an osha violation. >> it's called. juniority violation, i've been in that seat. >> ms. provost, when we talk
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about help, how helpful would it be to -- many of them resulting in death along the border, you have the plazas and the cartels right across the border. they have relationships with ms-13 and other tcos. how helpful would it be for us to increase our operational awareness and security of the border? and i want to add to this something you said. on the one hand border crossings are down but the threat to our border security agents are going up. would it be logical to assume there are a higher share of people crossing the border illegally now and doing it for illicit or potentially illicit border activities? >> unfortunately the violence against our men and women rises. as it becomes more difficult to cross the borders, that -- >> so the human smugglers are going to be better armed, probably more sophisticated, the ones who have been doing it for
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a longer period of time, maybe higher levels of coordination. so it puts you at a much more dangerous situation. >> yes, it does. >> so it would seem to me we have a debate here about border security. it would seem to me to the extent we put people, technology, and infrastructure on the border, we're not only addressing a national security problem, but we may also be addressing a humanitarian element in terms of limiting the amount of human smuggling that's occurring to ultimately get into the human trafficking, prostitution, the other things that occur that create the currency that ms-13 uses to run an organization. is that right? >> yes, those resources certainly support our efforts and any impact we can have on these tcos to disrupt and dismantle their operations is key to our success. >> i did want to go to either
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mr. benner or mr. blanco. i know the treasury added ms-13, i think, in 2012 as a target for potential economic sanctions. have they worked, and what more should we look at to disrupt their flow? that's one question. mr. benner, i would like for you to get to equitable sharing. i think you and mr. blanco may have mentioned how coordination with state and local enforcement is critically important. for those who don't know what equitable sharing is, that's where state and local law enforcement are able to benefit from some of the asset forfeiture to fund operations to go beyond what they normally would do when they're cooperating with federal authorities. how important do you think that program is? >> as far as equitable sharing, that's one of the most valuable tools we have in federal law enforcement to support the
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resources that state and local communities actually dedicate to our task forces -- absolutely. >> just to be clear, we have 30 seconds. >> we know the state and local officers know the activity in their neighborhoods better than we do. and the ability for us to reimburse and support through our state and local overtime fund and asset sharing is invaluable. >> senator whitehouse. >> senator cruz has asked me to yield my time, so i'm happy to do that. >> thank you, i appreciate it. ms-13's motto is to kill, rape, and control. and just a few months ago this
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horrific fact was driven home in my hometown of houston where in march ms-13 gang members were charged with kidnapping three teenagers and murdering one in an apparent satanic ritual according to news reports. after the girls were kidnapped and before the murder the three girls were forcibly held in an apartment and drugged and repeatedly sexually assaulted. i want to ask each of you, this is not an isolated incidence but rather part of a larger problem. and so from a federal perspective, how bad is the ms-13 situation in the state of texas? how big a threat is it, and what more do we need to do to protect against ms-13? mr. blanco? >> senator, thank you for your question, and thank you so much
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for your leadership in this important area for us. the threat is everywhere, not only in texas. it's in every urban community, every rural community. and that's why in department of justice along with our colleagues at dhs and fbi where everyone else is taking this seriously. what you can do, senator, i think we've talked about this a little bit today. you can help take the fight to where it emanates from, work with our overseas colleagues and make sure these folks never get here. i i think we also need to take a look at the juvenile people now. get them while they're young. make sure weave programs in place to let them understand how bad it is to be in the gang and the detriments of that as well. >> indeed a significant number of them came as unaccompanied minors.
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>> senator, i don't have those specific statistics. perhaps my colleagues do. but i can tell you, this it is a you have ms-13 members who are u.s. citizens. but the command structure is in el salvador. you're seeing those individuals come here and lay down the law with fellow ms-13 members and giving them instruction and guidance to be even more violent to send more money to el salvador to support their structure. >> ms. provost, in your written testimony you stated cvp has faced many challenges including large scale flows of foreign nationals from mexico. ms-13 took full advantage of these flows of foreign nationals in the united states by hiding in these populations to enter
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our country. as a result american citizens have died. would you elaborate on that testimony, please? >> well, certainly and as i mentioned earlier with the numbers we have coming through and specific to the state of texas, across the border since 2012 we have apprehended approximately 5,000 individuals with gang affiliation of some sort, the majority of them being adults versus unaccompanied children. and approximately 3,000 of those come through the state of texas. but that makes sense with the amount of traffic we've been having along the border, that being our highest traffic areas. as i know you know senator ari, in texas the last few years. so that is a concern for us. that is why we work very closely with our partners in i.c.e. and our task forces with hsi and
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task forces. it certainly is a great concern. >> have any known ms-13 members who are illegal aliens been released in the united states in recent years? >> yes. once they've been through uacs and come into custody after border patrol has made that apprehension, i.c.e. no longer can hold them under ero. >> are those reports accurate? >> i've seen that intelligence report, sir. i believe it's accurate, yes. >> well, has the trump administration released any known ms-13 members? >> i couldn't answer that question. i don't have the information. >> well, i'm going to ask you to answer that question. this committee needs to know the
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answer needs to be no. and if you are releasing known ms-13 members, it needs to stop. >> well, we don't release anybody, anybody that's uacs. we turn them directly over to the custody of hhs. once they're in hhs custody, i can't speak to what happens to them. >> i would ask you to follow up in answer to that question and also senator kennedy's question, i would like to know specifically what cities, what sanctuary cities or otherwise have released known ms-13 members? that's highly troubling, and i would suspect other members of this committee would like that information as well. >> thank you. >> senator whitehouse. >> thank you, chairman. thank you all for your work. let me ask a couple of questions for mr. blanco, if i may. when i was the united states attorney in rhode island, we did a significant case against a
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latin kings group. and the way in which that group was operating was a little bit like a bunch of people who decided they were going to start selling hamburgers and call themselves mcdonald's, ie, this was local people who gave themselves the name latin kings, but they weren't very directly connected with what was then mostly a california and prison-based organization. and indeed one of the ways we were able to make that case so effectively is by having a very brave undercover agent go in and pretend to be a real latin king and get them to say what they were up to. so that has educated me to the difference between the actual network itself and others who for purposes of intimidation or self-aggrandizement or whatever model themselves or take the name of the organization. with respect to ms-13, how is that playing out?
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or is it truly a very sort of corporate style essentially controlled organization or like our latin king's group, are loose franchises setting up that can operate independently? >> thank you, senator, for your question. it's a very important question. they are not loose. they are highly structured. and they're structured in a way that i think in modern times you can see how they adapt. there's a way to communicate. there are signals given to them. it's about money. it's about power. >> so there's a considerable amount of command and control throughout the outfit. >> yes, sir. >> and if someone is running around declaring they're part of the gang and isn't, what are the consequences for the individual? >> well, that's a serious problem and it would be taken care of very quickly. it's a brand. >> i think like very many local
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states we have police departments that have to deal with gang problems. our police departments very much want the flexibility to be able to address these gang problems in the way that they need to as a law enforcement priority. and they have concern that unrelated immigration priorities might intrude. and if you need to give somebody's mother a pass because they're a cooperator with you, they want to make sure they've got the flexibility to make sure that their law enforcement effort, which requires an enormous amount of community information to be effective, is not impaired. is that a reasonable judgment on their part, and is that something that the department of justice wishes to support? >> senator, that certainly is a topic of a lot of conversation. as you know, you were the u.s. attorney in rhode island. and in these kinds of investigations, there's a lot of those goes into it. there's a lot of factors.
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and we do have ways and procedures we work with our counterparts at dhs to work with what you're talking about. >> because if you have a valuable cooperator that has perhaps infiltrated them into the group and the equivalent of a double agent almost, you don't want to shut them out. >> you may not, or you might, senator, just to make sure they're covered. >> but that's the department's job. the people running the investigation should be making those assessments, not somebody that doesn't know -- >> along the prosecutor. >> yes, the prosecutor together. >> there is a process in place that takes care of that. >> very good. well, i appreciate all of your work on this problem. the ferocity of some of these gang organizations is
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horrifying. >> it is. it's getting worse, too. >> thank you. >> senator durbin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. lloyd, i'd like to ask you about a program called the central american minors program that was established under the previous administration in 2014. so the children from the northern triangle facing threats of extreme violence often from ms-13 and other gangs could go through security screenings in their own countries and safely rejoin their families living in the united states without making a dangerous solo journey. approximately 11,000 children have applied in these three countries. since the program started 2,800 have been admitted. could you tell me the status of that program today? >> i would have to defer to my colleagues at the department of
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state. that's where the program is housed. and apart from incidental contact and various information sharing, i wouldn't be able to give too much information on that. >> i'm told this program has been stopped by president trump's executive order, stopped all refugee processing before federal court actually stayed the order. so i guess we all share a feeling, both sides of the table, ms-13 is reprehensible. they're exploitation and criminal activities on either side of the border should be stopped, and that we certainly want to protect their victims. in your capacity dealing with refugee, does it sound to you like a classic definition of a refugee to be a minor child when is facing threats of extreme violence or has been a victim of extreme violence of ms-13 from a country like a northern triangle?
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>> aside from the strict legal definitions the category is very similar. that's why they're housed under the office of refugee resettlement. they're a similar population. >> so the policy of the administration to halt this program, to protect these children from ms-13's criminal activities, doesn't seem consistent with the message i'm hearing over and over in this hearing, that we care about the victims in the united states and other places. and we care enough at least under this program instituted in 2014, to offer them refuge with their families in the united states. so there's a disconnect here between, quote, getting tough on immigration, getting tough on refugees, and really caring about what ms-13 is doing in these northern triangle countries. i don't ask you to respond to that because that's my own editorial comment on that, but it is troubling to me to deal with that. i wasn't here when there was a
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big discussion about the city of chicago and it's a shame because i'm proud to represent it. and i will tell you this, make no mistake. if ms-13 gang members are engaged in criminal activity, they're going to be prosecuted. we're not going to look the other way. they have the same reaction as a lot of other communities. come on, uncle sam, where's the money? you want us to play immigration agent for the united states of america, then come forward the training and the resources to make it happen. i don't know what the discussion was before, but we're not looking the other way when the comes to criminal activity by these gangs or any other gangs. in fact, we've gone to the point of asking the new president who has tweeted a lot about chicago, please help us, send us some resources. we're stretched to the limit with what we're trying to do. and it's easy to be critical in these hearings, but when i talk to men and women in law enforcement in chicago and other
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places, they're looking for a helping hand and and the senators to ask the president to help us. so far we haven't seen it. true for the attorney general. it's basically stepped away from federal assistance to law enforcement agencies. so it's great to tweet your outrage at crime in chicago. it's another thing to step up and join us to try to stop it. and that invitation is out there as well. let me conclude as well, we have a broken immigration system. we have an immigration subcommittee of judiciary that should be exploring that. we haven't. this is the closest we've come. and i hope that we'll take up what is necessary to reform our immigration system to improve it. we passed a bill several years ago, bipartisan bill that wasn't even considered by the house of representative. i hope we'll try again. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator blumenthal. >> thanks, mr. chairman. i share the very strong
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dedication that you are at the forefront of implementing by cracking down on these gangs because of their reprehensible activities and terrorizing people in communities, particularly latino communities and elsewhere. and i think that the law enforcement strategy here has to be designed as you know better than i to elicit information from people who would come forward as law enforcement always depends on participation by victims and survivors and others who know firsthand what the gangs are doing. so i was troubled to learn that in the recent anti-gang operations, project new dawn, which was a 6-week operation under operation community shield
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and produced 1,378 arrests, about 20% of those arrests, in fact i think about 200 individuals had no criminal backgrounds or connections. my question first is to mr. albence, why were so many immigrants who are not gang members and who had no criminal background arrested as part of this anti-gang operation? >> i'd like to defer this to mr. benner. that was a homeland security run operation. >> thank you, senator for the question. so of the 280 and what we would term administrative arrests, the activity they would have been involved in may not have been up for prosecution at that time. so of the almost 1,100 criminal arrests, those are cases,
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senator, where the arrestee was either facing a federal charge or a state charge. and they were being taken into custody to face those charges. the rest of the total of 280 in the administrative realm very well could have some levels of criminality. we are still prioritizing our efforts in terms of -- >> well, when you say some criminality, did they have criminal records, were they committing a criminal act? why were they arrested? >> so i'm sure there are many inclusive in that but -- >> i don't want to take time going through speculation. i'm not in way question your good faith in responding, but i'd like to know why those 280 were arrested beyond just saying there may be some element of criminality? >> so i can take that back and do a deep dive into those 280
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and be happy to brief you, senator. >> thank you. the ms-13 gang, as i understand it, are not involved in alcohol narcotics trafficking, is that correct? >> senator, what you mean by trafficking, they're not traffickers, as you would expect mexican and guatemalan cartels, but they do distribute drugs. and they do make money off of distribution of drugs. federally what we talk about trafficking amounts, we mean a lot. but they're involved in everything. it's a business for them. they're making money. >> are they involved in human trafficking? >> yes, they are involved. >> is that their principle activity? >> i think it's one of their activities. but principle activity i believe it's more extortion, robbery,
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just threats against individuals here domestically, that they then send the money back to -- >> many of their victims undocumented immigrants? >> i think some of their victims are undocumented aliens. some of their victims are u.s. nationals who have family in el salvador, guatemala, and honduras. because that sort of gives them the hook of getting these people as well and having them give up their money or intimidating them by intimidating their family back home. >> to make the point that i think senator franken raised depending on cooperation from victims means that discouraging productive effect, in other words someone's who's undocumented who's following the law, working hard, playing by the rules as we often characterize them, may be discouraged from coming forward if they believe they're going to be deported or if they believe
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they're going to be arrested. so i'm wondering whether you have suggested or would suggest any changes in policy. that's a question that could be answered by any of you. that would enable you to be more effective in going against gang members to elicit more cooperation from victims and survivors. >> senator, i'll take that question first. there are a whole host of reasons, senator, why victims don't want to come forward or witnesses don't want to come forward. >> fear being one of them. >> it could be. i can tell you i have not seen it in my 28 years of practice. one of the thing that concerns them is when they live in the same community of which these people have been released back in the community, that worries them. and that prevents them from coming forward. when you have places where
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people get to hide because law enforcement can't get them. >> that's the fear of retaliation. >> by the defendants, by those people who are committing crimes. that's one reason. there are a whole host of reasons. >> or by their friends or cohorts? >> could be, could be. >> so all the more reason that they need support from law enforcement, and i don't know what can be done, obviously, the witness protection program can't be extended to thousands and thousands of people. it's not feasible. but i don't know what more can be done to encourage that cooperation. >> well, i can tell you hearings like this are important. and i can tell you that having communication communications with our dhs counter parts is really important. this is, as you can imagine, senator, is really part of our discussion. law enforcement individuals, every day talk about how we can help victims and witnesses. so this is something that's always on our minds. and i think that's something
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that's translating into these communities as well. >> thank you. >> sorry. mr. blanco, i want to go back to something you said in response to senator blumenthal's question. did you say in your 28 years of law enforcement, you hadn't seen the factor of being illegally present as an inhibiting factor of investigations? i'm sure that may have been a little bit of an overexaggeration, but what you're saying is that's not the majority of the cases where people are concerned with cooperating with law enforcement? >> there are a whole host of reasons. that could be some of the reasons, but as you mentioned earlier -- >> i think common sense would say that it is. but again, i'm willing to go back and use the numbers i saw here with senator franken and
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his survey that he quoted as correct, that means we've placed 80,000 children in households with illegally present people who are likely not to report criminal activity up to and including recruiting of that unaccompanied child into ms-13. if you believe the numbers. i'm just using the numbers that were put forth before the panel. mr. albence, i need to understand, i've never been in law enforcement and i'm not a lawyer, but i want to understand and maybe clarify something that senator durbin mentioned with respect to the sanctuary cities. you happened to use cook county and i do want to echo the request from senator kennedy and modified by senator cruz. we need that information. but if you were allowed access to a sanctuary city -- i'm not going to pick on anyone. but if you were allowed access to people involved in gang violence, what happens next?
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once you get access to that person, do they get transferred up to federal custody? >> correct. >> so if they get transferred to federal custody, i'm trying to understand how the request for more resources when by definition you moving them to a different jurisdiction how that has anything to do with you having access to these sanctuary cities, particularly for people who are criminal offenders. >> right. when we're referring to sanctuary cities, we're not requesting law enforcement above and beyond -- we're asking for their cooperation to enable us to exercise our federal authorities to take enforcement action. >> i'm just trying to be brief because many of you are going to get a request to meet with me in my office so i can get a chance to get more than five-minute
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increments chances to speak with you. to what extent does that lack of access hamper your broader investigations to go after the criminal enterprise? i mean in some cases maybe you can flip them. in other cases -- to what extent does that cut off a lot of trails to your investigation? >> senator, if we're unable to receive information, then it hurts our investigations both domestically and internationally. >> mr. blanco, i did not get a chance to let you answer the question about sanctions -- it looks like you were going to say something to that effect. but what other devices do we need to apply pressure on the criminal enterprise? it sounds like you're suggesting that some other nations that have the highest percentage of people coming here and participating in ms-13 or tco that we're getting reasonably good cooperation. but what other things should we be talking about in terms of sanctions regimes that would be helpful to law enforcement?
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>> with respect to sanctions regimes against the enterprise itself, i think the first step would be ofac evaluations, i don't know how valuable that has been, but i can tell you by seizing assets and taking their assets and using those assets to either pay back victims of crimes or reinvest it into law enforcement, that's a critical tool. and you may think ms-13 doesn't have a lot of assets, but they have plenty of assets. >> yeah, we're working on programs to target ofac, using that tool in the financial realm to shutdown that pathway. the remittances coming to the united states to el salvador, if it's almost death by a thousand pinpricks. you got enough people earning money through extortion and prostitution, it adds up over time. and the commanding control of ms-13 is different than many other street gangs. it's very solid as mr. blanco said, very tight-knit, very
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command centric. so that flow of money back to el salvador is very important to them, because they rely on it to further their operation. so this is an area that i'd like to brief you and other members on in a more private setting, to not tip our hand entirely in our tactics. but it's area we are laser focused on is cutting off the illicit proceeds between here and el salvador. >> i look forward to that discussion. and chief provost, i should have mentioned in my opening comments but was mindful of time. i spent four days on the border and i was very impressed with what i saw there. i think if we up here listen to what you down there are saying, there's a way to secure the border. and there's a way to do it that will allow your officers to operate in a safer environment.
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and i think we need to dispense with the we don't need borders, we need bridges discussion at one end of the spectrum, the other end of the spectrum we need to build a structure that can be viewed from outer space. there's a happy medium that the experts on the ground there have said through people, technology and infrastructure convince you that you can be made more safe. do you think that answer is somewhere in the happy medium and not in the extremes? >> the border is very dynamic, sir, as i'm sure you've seen. and that mixture as you mentioned is we know this to be the right mixture. and it varies in different locations. but certainly the type of support for our front line men and women would help reduce the risk to them and their security, help them do their jobs even better than they already do. so that resourcing is -- would be a huge support. >> and i bring that up in ms-13 in the context of the discussion
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today because i think it's a vitally important way to disrupt their supply chains. it's a vitally important tool and also provides a better level of safety for border security. but it's a part of a multifaceted strategy to make it very difficult for these murderers and rapist and drug traffickers to be successful. and the last thing before i will have a closing statement that was offered by senator grassley, but when we talk about that was remarkable when was down there, because you hear people up here talk about you have police and law enforcement entities in mexico are corrupt, you can't work with them. a lot of people need to understand that there may be some corruption, but a lot of it has to do with life threats against those people and their families in the same way that you have people entering ms-13
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who but for their participation may have their own lives or family members back in their host countries at risk. i'm not excusing the fact they may be entering into a criminal enterprise, but we have to understand how sophisticated and ruthless the leaders of these enterprises are. and we need to implement policies that let us, only figuratively speaking, cut their heads off. we have to do that. and we have to implement policies and make it more likely that community policing techniques to where people in the communities feel safer working with law enforcement work, we have to implement policies that let you get into every jail in the united states and investigate more thoroughly the criminal enterprises that these tcos represent. and we have to implement policies that are reasonable and respectful for illegally present children. that's how you start solving this problem. and i look forward to talking with all of y'all about that more -- excuse me, in my office.
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closing statement from chairman grassley, i want to thank all of you for being here and for your testimonies as today's hearing has shown ms-13 gang violence and unaccompanied children recruitment has become a serious problem. the brutal, ms-13 gang has recently grown in size and strength. and the amount and scope of the crimes they commit are terrifying. at least 40 states have reported ms-13 gang activity and violence. thousands of american communities are being affected by this organization and organizations like them. a big reason for this proliferation is our own federal government's negligence. the administration must do a much better job than the last administration. it needs to be careful not to hastily place unaccompanied minors from central america, some of whom are gang members already, into american communities without proper screening or oversight. steps must also be taken to
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prevent the flow of these minors and prosecute gang members who end the violence. this hearing is demonstrated that the current system is fraught with abuse, systemic errors and a lack of effective cooperation between federal, state and local agencies. i look forward to seeing each agency represented today to work together in the future to ensure these minors don't continue to fall through the cracks and become targets for gang recruitment or worse, victims of its brutality. that will conclude this hearing. the record will remain open for one week for member statements and questions from witnesses -- for witnesses. i know that i have a lot more questions and many of you will have an opportunity to go into my office so that we can discuss this more fully. i thank you all for your service. and i look forward to your continued participation in solving this policy challenge. thank you all. this meeting's adjourned.
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